Well, here we are again. You may recall earlier this year when I posted a tribute to three of my favorite entertainers who passed away in early 2014. In that piece, I begged 2014 to be done with taking my favorite people away, knowing that the chances of that happening were pretty slim. Sure enough, since that post was published, there have been some more deaths that have bummed me out. Bob Hoskins, H.R. Giger, Rik Mayall, Chuck Noll, Casey Kasem, Eli Wallach, Johnny Winter, James Garner, and Marilyn Burns have all left us behind for the next big thing. Not to mention a personal loss of a great aunt of mine. Love ya, Aunt Faye. And yesterday, a death that hit me just as hard as the big three in the first post, Robin Williams. I got the news late in the evening and spent the rest of the day pretty bummed out. The man has been entertaining me throughout my entire life. I could go on in tribute to the man, but I’ll save that for another day. The world has lost a truly great entertainer, one of the best, in a very tragic way. That’s what I’d like to focus on right now.
By now you know Robin Williams was suffering from depression. The story is all over the internet, and every arm chair psychologist has come out of the wood work to talk about it. As much as I hate to add to the blather, I feel I must because I’ve seen and heard some astoundingly misinformed opinions on the matter.
First of all, depression is a real thing. Admittedly, it is a very hard thing to empathize with if you’ve never been afflicted with it yourself. Therein lies the problem. People love to crap all over things they don’t understand. It happens in all sorts of ways, and no one is immune from doing it from time to time. But I would argue that depression is something you should make the extra effort to get a grip on. If you did, you can make a real difference, and maybe even save someone’s life.
It’s hard to explain exactly what depression is. There’s a myriad of causes and ways it manifests itself in a person. It can be very mild or very severe. I can only relate what it felt like to me, and that was unreasonable melancholy. What I mean by that is by all reasonable measures, I should have been fine. I had a roof over my head, a well paying job, a family that loved me, and plenty of friends. And yet, I was miserable. I couldn’t explain why. I think that’s the thing that bothers the unafflicted. They are trying to assign rationality to the irrational, and it doesn’t quite work that way. We’re talking about a mental disorder here, and it’s counter productive to dismiss it as something you just need to get over.
I think that’s what’s bothering me about all these people saying, “He was rich, what could he possibly have been depressed about?” It’s not about the money. It never was. It’s cliche to say, but money doesn’t buy happiness. In Robin’s case, it pays your alimony and hospital bills. I’d argue that true happiness comes from within. It’s a matter of finding it. And it also helps to manage your expectations of what happiness really is, too. No one is truly happy all the time, and it’s important to remember that. I still get that depressed feeling from time to time. Denis Leary once said, “Happiness comes in doses. It’s sex, or a cigarette, or a chocolate chip cookie. You come, smoke the butt, eat the cookie, then get up in the morning and go to f*ckin’ work.”
So, what can be done to combat depression? Well, it depends on the severity. Sometimes all you need is a nonjudgmental ear to talk to. What worked for me was finding an outlet for the emotions I was feeling. I took up writing, drew pictures, and formed a band with a friend. Whether or not I was actually any “good” at those endeavors was besides the point. I was doing them for me, not anyone else. The validation that comes from other’s approval can be a nice boost, but it’s one of those fleeting examples of happiness. I find that the more substantial doses of happiness come from the act of creation itself. In more serious cases of depression, a real, PhD holding psychologist and/or prescription drugs would be prudent. These things have varying degrees of success, but they’re a start. Feel free to share your solutions in the comments.
If you know someone that needs help, offer it. Don’t sit by and do nothing. As I said, it may be as simple as offering a sympathetic ear. Offer helpful solutions if you can, but don’t be dismissive of the person’s problems that you may deem trivial. If you are in need of help yourself, here’s a link to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Give that a try. Heck, talk to me here if nothing else. Just realize that while it doesn’t always seem like it, you are not alone and there are people who can and want to help.
While I’ve never been diagnosed with depression, due to medical complications from a surgery in 2010, I experienced it once. I won’t lie – I tried it. I couldn’t go through with it. I did, however, have two nice little stints in the psych ward as a result. I had this whole detailed, intricate plan. In my mind, my surgery made me a burden. I lived far away from my family, and they felt helpless. They had to drive two hours to pick me up, then three hours to take me to follow up appointments. I wasn’t allowed to drive myself that far. My sis had a hubby, a baby and a toddler. My co-workers had their lives too. I knew I was a burden, and I had to fix it. I saw it as ripping off a bandaid. Sure, they would be she’ll shocked at first, then go through the stages of grief, but then, it would be all over. I would have righted the wrong. It made perfect sense to me.
I’m happy to see you’re still with us. Thanks for sharing your story.
My friend wrote this earlier today and I think it’s awesome so I’m going to post it here.
“Even if you’ve suffered from depression, if you have never had a demon suffocating you, every moment of every day, with the power to actually convince you that you’re nothing, nobody, that those you love whom you have been hanging on for all this time would be so much better off without you, that the air you breath and the space you take up are not even yours, you’re stealing them while you live your worthless life … if you’ve never felt that, then I challenge you to reconsider whether suicide is the “easy” way out, or a “selfish” act. Rationalizing someone else’s depression in a way that allows you to find blame is the worst possible way to remember a person, let alone a loved one. Here’s the bitch about suicide: nobody is to blame, and that is one of the hardest parts of losing someone that way. Choosing to live instead of die is just a testament to the fact that your demon didn’t get you that day. Just be grateful that your demon and their demon are not equal in strength.”
Good stuff. Thanks for sharing.
Well said, Corny. I am glad you made the choice you made, Ambra. Thanks, for sharing that, Cramsey. As far as I am concerned. Robin Williams was sick for a long time and he eventually died from it.
I have encountered a lot of nonsense talk about depression in recent days and it’s making me crazy. I’ve had super frustrating conversations with people who simply don’t believe that depression CAN JUST HAPPEN not because something sad happened to you or your life is shitty, etc. I have been fortunate not to have suffered from it myself but of course I know people who have. The only thing I know to do is let them know that I care and they are not alone. Thank you for sharing, everybody. Also Jenny Lawson wrote a great post about depression: http://thebloggess.com/2014/01/strange-and-beautiful/ – and here is a part I love that I hope helps somebody somewhere: “And when you doubt your worth, imagine your younger sister or your best friend or your child having these same doubts and realize that that same sense of angry disbelief that the world would ever be better without them is the exact same disbelief that your friends and family would feel if they lost you.”
Thank you for making the effort to understand what goes on with depression. If everyone made the same effort, we’d lose a lot less good people.
I imagine that Robin Williams felt and resisted the urge to kill himself a hundred times over the course of his life, if not more. I think he was incredibly strong for holding on as long as he did. Not that I know anything about that, of course.